SUPERBROTHERS: SWORD AND SWORCERY EP / Superbrothers / PC
 
Sword and Sworcery is most definitely an "art" game. Fortunately, it's not a Pretentious Platformer With Tweest, or other such psuedo-intellectual slog; it's concerned with art in the sense of "being beautiful and delighting you", not "taking a superior posture while huffing own farts" or "wanting to be seen as Profound but not actually having anything profound to say and covering that lack of substance with a bunch of vague po-mo faffery." Unfortunately, it does fall into another pitfall common to the "art game"; it focuses too much on the "art" at the expense of the "game" , greatly to the game's detriment in the latter stages.

The game primarily takes inspiration from old '90s adventure games, particularly the Quest for Glory series, but also a lot of aesthetic touches borrowed straight from Zelda. It doesn't really play like either of them, though. It was designed for the ipad, and released a couple of years ago, only just this year getting a port to PC. So expect the most basic of interfaces - pointing, clicking, dragging and holding are about all you're called upon to do here.
 


The game's main appeal is pretty and unusual 2D sprite art with very good sound work and an excellent soundtrack. Unfortunately, it seems like the developers had a great concept for art and sound direction, but not a whole lot else, and tried to just pad the whole thing out into a game proper, which doesn't entirely work out over the long haul. The game is divided into four "sessions", and the first two are largely introductory; you're led by the nose to everything you need to do, and I'm not entirely sure you can even die if you're trying to in the small handful of combat encounters. The third "session" is really the bulk of the game, and plays like an adventure proper, but sometimes suffers from being a bit too obscure and obtuse in its goals.

More of a problem was the simple over-reliance on padding and repetition to fill out playtime. There's entirely too much walking uneventfully through the same screens and fighting the same pointless, easy, repetitive monsters. The third session relies on the game's "moon phase" system, which can be aggravating in and of itself; the game corresponds to the actual real-life moon cycle, and important locations needed to proceed are locked off until you get a completely full and completely new moon respectively (it's a bit like the handheld game Boktai, except using your computer calendar instead of sunlight.) Essentially, if you played the game straight, you could potentially have to wait 30 days in between play sessions to get anywhere! Fortunately, with only a bit of exploration, there's a (mildly) hidden item you can get that allows you to change the moon phase at will.
 


But there's still trouble even after you're able to change the moon at will. If you've used the moon-phase-device-thingy, go into the Dream World (where you spend a lot of time solving puzzles in the 3rd act), save your game, and then quit ... when you come back, the moon phase has been reset to whatever it is "supposed" to be based on the date. At one point, I was working on a puzzle that was bafflingly obtuse in the Dream World, and had set the moon to New since that was necessary. Since I was getting nowhere with it, I quit out to go make some dinner, do the dishes, and have a chat on the phone. After that nice refresher, I was ready to reload and crack into it again ... only to find that the game had "reset" the moon on me, so now I had to walk aaaaall the way out of the Dream World, aaaalll the way through the Real World to the Moon Chamber Thingy, then aaaall the way back. Seriously, a good ten minutes or more of uneventful walking. That's too much of a time sink for no good reason. I can't even imagine how confusing and rough it was on the people who didn't happen to come across the Moon Chamber Thingy ... I've seen people on forums talking about how they were constantly resetting their computer's clock date to get the moon to where they needed it to be! That's far too much gyration for a game to expect of you (and while not particularly WELL hidden, the Moon Chamber Thingy also doesn't exactly jump out and slap you in the face either, like much of the rest of the game does.)
 


I ended up giving up on the game in the third session; it wasn't too hard or obscure, I just got fed up with it wasting my time with all the needless, tedious walking about and pixel-hunty trial-and-error puzzles. So I just watched the rest on Youtube, and wasn't particularly taken with the ending either; it reinforces my guess that the game's design revolved entirely around art concept, and the actual game portion was somewhat tossed together as an afterthought. After starting with a lot of promise, it ends up coming to a rather empty and unsatisfying conclusion. The game is, however, refreshingly original and genuinely beautiful sometimes as well. So I think it's worth a look, so long as you aren't being asked to drop outrageous coin on it.
 
 
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